Date read: 21-26 February 2015
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hardback, 182 pages
Published 1974 by Graphic Arts Center Publishing
Source: Deschutes Public Library [OVERSIZE 917.95 ATKESON RAY)
In those books all of the photographs were black & white and we were provided both historical and technical details by contributors highly qualified to do so. This book has only color photos and the text by Archie Satterfield consist of an eight-page essay to Oregon and, I assume, the photo captions are also by him. But in neither case do we learn anything about the historical and technical details of these photos. Or why they are even all color.
Despite carting home this heavyweight and its equally stout companion, Oregon III, and the not light but more middling-sized, Wind on the Waves, I almost did not read this. Atkeson’s color photos (based mostly on this book) simply do not draw me in like his black & white photos do. Better editorial selection? Or do I just prefer his work in b&w?
What drew me in, even though I still had to force my way through the Satterfield essay (which is OK in its own right; just not what I am looking for), was the two-page photo (pp. 8-9) of the Cascades at sunset looking west from the top of Pilot Butte. I immediately recognized the view, despite it being an “impossible” one. That is, not a human eye perspective. The photo is mostly shades of gold and browns, while the sunset silhouettes cause lots of interesting flattening in the depth-of-field. But it isn’t quite flat, not in all places. I am not going to try and describe it any further; let us just say, it has depths. Then again, I do not particularly think it is a great photo at all. It is an interesting one though.
The perspective in the photo is quite intriguing, as I hinted at. My guess, based on information on Atkeson’s technique (at least in b&w) in Oregon, My Oregon was to use the “extra” resolution of his 4×6 camera to take larger landscapes and then crop out the portion he wanted. Based on the perspective of this photo he had to do something similar. This is a piece of a much larger negative. There is no other way to compress and flatten the foreground so much without a telephoto lens which would seriously narrow the angle and we would have far less peaks in view. By the way, I talked about foreground in the previous paragraph but that is what is entirely missing from this print. The foreground of the photo has been removed in printing.
So … larger negative, piece of. Interesting. But now I want to see the whole negative. And did Atkeson compose the entire picture in the viewfinder and then still enlarge sections out or did he compose the shot he wanted and only ensure he had enough “extra” around it to do whatever he was looking for with perspective, etc.? So many questions and no hints of an answer.
By the way, there was an Oregon in 1968 by Atkeson with text by Charles H. Belding. It was “one the most successful books in the history of regional publishing, [but] has gone out of print to make way for this fresh look …” (front flap).
I liked it well enough but I simply am not roused by Atkeson’s color photos—or at least those selected for this book. I will try poking at Oregon III, which has text by Richard Ross, and at Wind on the Waves, with lots of text by Kim R. Stafford. Both of those also contain all color photos.